Your car’s tire pressure monitoring system is a key component of US regulations after a major recall of defective tires was ordered by the government in the late 1990s.
In today’s article, How to Reset the Tire Pressure Light, we will explain the proper procedure to reset this warning light and explain why the system is installed in every vehicle sold today.
The Firestone Tire Failures
In the late 1990s, there was a massive increase in the number of tire failures in the US. Most of these failures involved Firestone brand tires that were installed as original equipment on the Ford Explorer and other similar vehicles.
Over several years, these tire failures were found to have caused 271 fatalities and over eight hundred injuries in the United States alone. More injuries, due to the defective tires, were also related to fatalities in several other countries.
These failures led the tire manufacturer, Bridgestone/Firestone, and Ford Motor Company, to recall and replace over 23 million tires. Several high-ranking executives resigned or were fired and Firestone eventually closed the Decatur, Illinois factory where the tires were manufactured. See Wikipedia for more details.
The TREAD Act
In response to this massive recall of defective tires and the multiple driver fatalities, the US Congress passed legislation called The Tread Act.
The TREAD Act requires that a system must be included in all vehicles by September 1, 2007, to warn drivers about underinflated tires on their vehicles. The warning system, or tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), needed to be placed in 100% of all passenger cars and light trucks under a gross vehicle weight of 10,000 lbs.
Automakers and their suppliers were also told to notify the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of all accidents that involved alleged tire defects.
The Tire Pressure Warning System
When you are driving and you notice that the tire pressure light is blinking, you probably think, “What is going on?” Well, the reason that your tire pressure light is blinking is to let you know there is probably a problem with your tires.
The tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) has become a safety feature of every motor vehicle made today. And, with any of the warning lights in your car, you should never ignore one. You also should know exactly what to do about it when the light comes on.
The TPMS is a warning that at least one of your tires is underinflated. It can:
- Create unpredictable handling
- Reduce tire lifespan by creating uneven tire wear
- Reduce your fuel economy
- Create unsafe driving conditions on the highway and even cause a blowout
If you see your warning light while you are driving, or if it is on constantly after starting your car, you should drive to a rest stop or gas station that has an air pump. Then, reinflate the tire(s) to the recommended pressure.
Tires normally will lose pressure for one or two reasons:
- A quick change in temperature
- A leak or puncture that allows air to escape
Often, when your tire pressure light comes on, the outside temperature has changed drastically, like when you experience a cold snap. What happens is that when the outside temperature drops, air gets denser and doesn’t require as much space inside the tire. When this happens, the air pressure in your tires is reduced. If the reduction is dramatic, it will activate the tire pressure warning light. Here’s a nice video demonstration on YouTube.
The TPMS warning light can also come on be when a driver a tire needs a repair following a puncture. If you top off the problem tire, it might give you enough time to get to a service center. However, if there are more than a few miles to cover, you should probably open the trunk and install your spare tire.
Sometimes, however, after you have topped off the air in your tires and don’t notice any leaks, your TPMS light may still be burning yellow on your dash. In this case, you should probably consider resetting your car’s tire pressure light. However, do this as a last resort since this is not a common maintenance issue.
Resetting the Tire Pressure Light
When your tire pressure light remains on even after correcting the air pressure, it can be reset. In most cars, you will usually find the tire pressure monitor reset button beneath the steering wheel. Check your user manual if you have trouble locating it.
Follow these steps to reset the TPMS light:
- Begin driving the car until you’re at about 50 mph. Travel for around 10 minutes. Normally, this will reset the sensor. When you start the car again, the TPMS light should not light up.
- Don’t start the car but turn the ignition key to the “ON” position. Press and hold down the reset button and it should begin to blink 3 times. Then, release the button and start the car. Run the engine for 15-20 minutes and the sensor should reset itself. Watch below video to see a demonstration.
There are several other methods you can reset the TPMS light. However, they are somewhat more time-consuming but worth a try if the steps above don’t work.
- Inflate all of your tires to about 3 PSI above the recommended pressure. Next, deflate all of them completely. (If your spare tire also has a sensor, make sure to include it as well.)
- After deflating the tires, reinflate each one until it reaches the proper pressure.
- Turn off the ignition switch and open the hood. Reach inside and remove the positive connection to the battery. Next, turn the ignition switch to “on” but don’t start the car. Press the horn for around 3 seconds so if any power is left in the circuit will discharge. Then, reconnect the positive connection to the battery.
If the TPMS warning light is flashing after you start your vehicle, it’s probably okay. However, it the light continues to flash or begins flashing after you start driving, there might be a problem.
When you notice that your tire pressure light is flashing, it may indicate there could be a problem with one of the tire sensors or possibly the sensor’s battery. When this occurs, you should take the car in for service soon so a technician can find the problem and resolve it properly.
Thanks very much for reading our article today, How to Reset the Tire Pressure Light. We hope you have found our directions helpful and have answered any questions you may have about resetting the warning light properly in your vehicle.
There’s nothing worse than being stranded with a car that can’t take you where you need to go when you need to be there. If you have any questions or if you would like to leave some comments about this article, please let us know! We want to be your top source for ideas about anything you need related to your car!